Ten wheeler tractor trailer trucks rumble past construction, wedged between coupes blaring music and SUV’s crammed with soccer balls and lacrosse sticks. There is a magic in condo decks lined with geraniums, parking lots burgeoning with eager customers, and the crisp cut scent of newly mowed grass defining all of it. Devices are everywhere: strapped to the arms of runners, dangling from walkers’ ears, resting in palms and pockets. Still, every deeply drawn breath brings a glimpse of the richness of life and all that matters. Here, in this 21st century, comes the story of the Good Shepherd.
I have gathered eggs from chicken coops, milked cows in a barn, and watched over lambs in a pen. The first were surprisingly warm and smooth, the second moist and messy, the third completely unexpected. Easily simplified in cartoons, the sheep were gentle and unintentional, responsive to food and restful in the heat. It was the first time I realized what the story of the Good Shepherd was actually about. Because, after all, what it means to be a Shepherd is now hidden in quaint Christmas cards and the crescendo of carols. To be a Shepherd is to be the caretaker, the conscientious and thoughtful one who genuinely cares and bravely shoulders what it means to care. Ther are no limits to that, and it is all about relationship, responsibility and service.
The Gospel bursts with that reality and that sense of purpose. It is about Jesus, the Shepherd, the radical nature of what it means to be committed to another. And it is about shepherding one another even as we are shepherded. It is about learning to do good and actively taking responsibility for one another. It is just as empowering as it is comforting. Most of all, it is engaging fully with life and with one another. Those connections, in a culture rapidly evolving in terms of norm and practice, are more important than ever.
To be a Shepherd today is far from the static images of robes and staffs and lambs wandering over a rocky terrain. Instead, this is about a God who is consistently journeying with us and does not abandon or betray us. Instead, the Shepherd still seeks each of us out with a modest and earnest fidelity. That realization leads to the responsibility of doing the same for others.
In a world exploding with spring and suffering from the unprecedented turbulence of the 21st century, the Shepherd still stands, still speaks. Time to listen. Time to speak. Time to remember that we are, at once, sheep and shepherd. Most of all, like the shepherd and the sheep, we belong to each other.